At long last, the time has come for me to visit my 49th state. With skis, and with friends. I’m joining Jason True and Mark Hammond, as well as Wills Hapworth, who will join us on the ground mid-stay, for an expedition style outing to Haines, Alaska. We’ll be camping in a yet-to-be-determined mountain zone somewhere well outside the town (and heli-skiing zones) of Haines proper, after the snowplane drops us off. Our window is 12 days, and we’ll see how the weather cooperates. Storm cycles are as much of a factor on a trip like this as is, say, eating food.
Despite the uncertainties, I’m stoked! As much for the skiing as for the near completion of another project I began a long, long time ago: visiting each of the 50 United States. (Dropping in via an airplane and hanging out in or near the airport doesn’t count.) It will be awesome to drink in the vistas from our Northernmost state.
To sum up seeing the lower contiguous 48 states, the experiences were at points inspiring, amazing, beautiful, life-altering, challenging, tiring, frantic, serene, bumpy, monotonous (yes), and not as much of a logistical headache as you might think. That’s what off-the-cuff travel can provide. It’s ironic that, had I put this much time and effort into travel anywhere else on the globe, I’d be able to say I’d visited 48 countries. Then I could claim to be well-traveled and reasonably cultured as well. But I’m pleased to have explored many well-known and unknown places in my own country.
I completed the lower 48 in the mid-2000’s with a trip to Maine and New Hampshire. During that excursion, I even ticked off a ski descent of Tuckerman’s Ravine on rented ski gear. From that experience, I learned that I will probably never plan on renting ski gear again in my life. Much better to bring your own and ski on what you’re familiar with. And that’s exactly what we’ll be doing for the Haines trip. Along with a whole lot of other gear.
Planning to go to Alaska to ski has been somewhat the opposite of many of my visits to other states. It required an almost mind-numbingly large load of logistics and preparation and arrangement and practice and discussions. We’ll just see if any of that hit the mark. Success will likely revolve around returning with our noses intact and each with 10 fingers and 10 toes. Anything beyond that was probably memorable skiing.
It’s complete coincidence to my ‘49th visited state status’ that Alaska was the 49th state permitted to join the United States. But I have been sorta saving Alaska and what now looks like the last one, Hawaii, figuring that both states would provide pretty epic journeys and experiences. It seems likely that’s how skiing Haines will turn out.
Legendarily steep skiing. Vast expanses of mostly unpeopled mountains. Glaciers. Crevasses. Snow bridges. Bergschrunds. Snow, and more snow, and more snow. Spines, ridges, faces, the works. A world of snow and ice. Remote. Unconnected. A rugged place that draws rugged people.
There isn’t any phone service where we’re going to be. There isn’t any Internet. There won’t be on-mountain updates of us looking pensive at the bottom, or of us struggling towards the top. Or of us skiing down. Naturally, there may be some of that afterwards..
In the meantime, we do have a satellite phone. While calls and outgoing texts or emails cost roughly the same as a ski area day pass per transmission, word is that incoming texts are free. If we ever get the number for the phone, I’ll post it up. Friendly texts would be welcome as we’ll obviously be far removed from external human contact.
During the time in Alaska, reader comments here at t&w won’t be moderated or posted. I’ll get to those when I return though, so feel free to write what’s on your mind as usual. (Travel is slated for March 30th to April 15th. However, weather could easily affect this timeframe.) There will be some posts during this time, so don’t despair. T&W won’t go fully dark as I head into the land of the midnight sun: Alaska: the, and my, 49th state. I’m thrilled to get there and more worried about the way the TSA treats people than I am about the adventure itself.